Nell Carter

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Nell Carter
Nell Carter.jpg
BornNell Ruth Hardy
(1948-09-13)September 13, 1948
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
DiedJanuary 23, 2003(2003-01-23) (aged 54)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart disease complicated by diabetes
Resting place
Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
Other namesNell Ruth Carter
Nell-Ruth Carter
EducationA. H. Parker High School
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1970–2003
Known forGimme A Break!
Spouse(s)George Krynicki (m. 1982–92)
Roger Larocque (m. 1992–93)
Partner(s)Ann Kaser
Children3
 
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Nell Carter
Nell Carter.jpg
BornNell Ruth Hardy
(1948-09-13)September 13, 1948
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
DiedJanuary 23, 2003(2003-01-23) (aged 54)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart disease complicated by diabetes
Resting place
Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
Other namesNell Ruth Carter
Nell-Ruth Carter
EducationA. H. Parker High School
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1970–2003
Known forGimme A Break!
Spouse(s)George Krynicki (m. 1982–92)
Roger Larocque (m. 1992–93)
Partner(s)Ann Kaser
Children3

Nell Carter (September 13, 1948 – January 23, 2003) was an American singer and actress. She won a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway musical Ain't Misbehavin', as well as an Emmy Award for her reprisal of the role on television.

From 1981 to 1987, Carter starred in the NBC sitcom Gimme a Break!. She received two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations for her work on the series.

Early life[edit]

Born Nell Ruth Hardy in Birmingham, Alabama, she was one of nine children born to Horace and Edna Mae Hardy. When she was two years old, her father, Horace, was electrocuted after he stepped on a live power line.[1][2]

As a child, she began singing on a local gospel radio show and was also a member of the church choir. At the age of 16, she was raped at gunpoint and became pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter, Tracey, who was raised by her aunt. At the age of 19, she left Birmingham and moved to New York City. During this time, she changed her surname to "Carter".[2] While living in New York City, Carter sang in coffee shops before landing her first role on Broadway in 1971.[3]

Career[edit]

Carter made her Broadway debut in the 1971 rock opera Soon, which closed after three performances. She was the Music Director for the 1974 Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective's production of "What Time of Night It Is". Carter appeared alongside Bette Davis in the 1974 stage musical Miss Moffat, based on Davis' earlier film The Corn Is Green. The show closed before making it to Broadway. She broke into stardom in the musical Ain't Misbehavin, for which she won a Tony Award in 1978. She also won an Emmy for the same role in a televised performance in 1982. Additional Broadway credits included Dude and Annie.

In 1979, she had a part in the Miloš Forman-directed musical film adaptation of Hair. Her vocal talents are showcased throughout the motion picture soundtrack. One of the more memorable moments in the film involves her rendition of the song "White Boys" where she can be seen dancing playfully as she performs the song (alongside Ain't Misbehavin co-star, Charlayne Woodard).

In 1978, Carter was cast as Effie White in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, but departed the production during development to take a television role on the ABC soap opera, Ryan's Hope in New York. When Dreamgirls premiered in late 1981, Jennifer Holliday had taken over the lead. Carter also took a role on television's The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, before landing a steady role as Nell Harper on the sitcom Gimme a Break!, for which she earned Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations. The popular show lasted from 1981 to 1987.

Within a couple of a years after Gimme a Break!, Carter pursued new TV series projects. In 1989, she shot a pilot for NBC entitled Morton's By the Bay, which aired as a one-time special in May of that year. In this, Carter played the assistant to the owner of a banquet hall, and the focus was on her and her mad-cap staff. Alan Ruck and Jann Karam co-starred. NBC passed on the series development. In October of that same year, she performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to Game 4 of the 1989 World Series, played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The following year, Carter starred in the CBS comedy You Take the Kids. The series, which was perceived as being the black answer to Roseanne due to its portrayal of a working-class African-American family, featured Carter as a crass, no-nonsense mother and wife. You Take the Kids faced poor ratings and reviews, and had a month's run from December 1990 to January 1991.

During the early 1990s, Carter appeared in low-budget films, TV specials, and on game shows such as Match Game '90 and To Tell the Truth. She also co-starred in Hangin' with Mr. Cooper from 1993 to 1995.

In the mid-1990s, Carter appeared on Broadway in a revival of Annie as Miss Hannigan. She was very upset when commercials promoting the show used a different actress, Marcia Lewis, a white actress, as Miss Hannigan. The producers claimed that the commercials, which were made during an earlier production, were too costly to reshoot. Carter felt that racism played a part in the decision. "Maybe they don't want audiences to know Nell Carter is black",[4] she told the New York Post. However, the ads did mention that Carter was in the show. "It hurts a lot", Carter told the Post, "I've asked them nicely to stop it — it's insulting to me as a black woman."[citation needed] Carter was later replaced by Sally Struthers.

In 2001, she appeared as a special guest star on the pilot episode of the new WB show Reba and continued with the show, making a total of three appearances in season one. The following year, Carter made two appearances on the show Ally McBeal. The following year had her rehearsing for a production of Raisin, a stage musical of A Raisin in the Sun in Long Beach, California, and filming a movie, Swing. Carter's final onscreen appearances was in the comedy film Back by Midnight. It was released in 2005, two years after her death.

Personal life[edit]

After Gimme a Break! began, Carter's life took a turbulent turn. She attempted suicide in the early 1980s, and entered a drug detoxification facility around 1985. Her brother, Bernard, died of complications due to AIDS in 1989.

She married mathematician and lumber executive George Krynicki, and converted to Judaism in 1982 (she had been born Roman Catholic and raised Presbyterian).[5][6][7]

Carter had three children: daughter Tracy and two sons, Daniel and Joshua. She adopted both her sons as newborns over a four-month period. She attempted to adopt twice more but both adoptions fell through. In one case she brought home a child, Mary, but the birth parents demanded money before they would sign the adoption papers. In her final attempt, she allowed a young pregnant woman to move into her home with the plan that she would adopt the child, but the mother decided to keep her baby.

In 1992, Carter had surgery to repair two aneurysms. She divorced Krynicki and married Roger Larocque the same year, divorcing Larocque the next year. She declared bankruptcy in 1995 and again in 2002. She also endured three miscarriages.

Appearing emotional and tearful on an episode of the Sally Jessy Raphael Show, Carter explained how she went to a Liza Minnelli concert during a turbulent time of her life. Carter told Raphael how Minnelli, seeing Carter in obvious distress, ran offstage to tell her sister, Lorna Luft, to go out and take Carter backstage so that she could get some help. Minnelli and Luft helped get Carter into rehab for her cocaine problem, which she conquered.

Death[edit]

Having previously survived two brain aneurysms, Carter died at the age of 54 on January 23, 2003, from heart disease complicated by diabetes in her Beverly Hills home. She is survived by her domestic partner, Ann Kaser, her two sons, Joshua and Daniel and daughter Tracy Ruth.[5][8]

Stage credits[edit]

Filmography[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1978CindyOliveTelevision movie
1979-1979Ryan's HopeEthel Green11 episodes
1979HairAin't Got No/White Boys
1980-1981The Misadventures of Sheriff LoboSgt. Hildy Jones15 episodes
1981Back RoadsWaitressAlternative title: Love with a Sinner
1981Modern ProblemsDorita
1981-1987Gimme a Break!Nellie Ruth 'Nell' Harper137 episodes
1982The Billy Crystal Comedy HourEpisode #1.3
1986AmenBess RichardsEpisode: "The Courtship of Bess Richards"
1989227Beverly MorrisEpisode: "Take My Diva... Please"
1990-1991You Take the KidsNell Kirkland6 episodes
1992Maid for Each OtherJasmine JonesTelevision movie
1992Final Shot: The Hank Gathers StoryLucille GathersTelevision movie
1992Jake and the FatmanEthel Mae HavenEpisode: "Ain't Misbehavin'"
1992Bébé's KidsVivianVoice role
1993-1995Hangin' with Mr. CooperP.J. Moore42 episodes
1995The CrazysitterThe Warden
1995The Grass HarpCatherine Creek
1995-1997Spider-Man: The Animated SeriesGlory Grant2 episodes
1996Can't Hurry LoveMrs. BradstockEpisode: "The Rent Strike"
1996The ProprietorMillie Jackson
1997The Blues Brothers Animated SeriesBetty Smythe (Voice)Episode: "Strange Death of Betty Smythe"
1997Brotherly LoveNell BascombeEpisode: "Paging Nell"
1997SparksBarbara RogersEpisode: "Hoop Schemes"
1997Fakin' da FunkClaire
1999Special Delivery
1999We Wish You a Merry ChristmasMrs. Claus (Voice)Video game
1999Follow Your HeartBus driver
1999Sealed with a KissMrs. WheatleyTelevision movie
2001Blue's CluesMother NatureEpisode: "Environments"
2001Touched by an AngelCynthia Winslow2 episodes
2001Seven DaysLucyEpisode: "Live: From Death Row"
2001Perfect FitMrs. Gordy
2001RebaDr. Susan Peters3 episodes
2002Ally McBealHarriet Pumple2 episodes
2003SwingJuan Gallardo
2005Back by MidnightWaitressReleased posthumously

Awards[edit]

YearAwardCategoryTitle of work
1978Drama Desk AwardOutstanding Actress in a MusicalAin't Misbehavin'
1978Theatre World AwardAin't Misbehavin'
1978Tony AwardBest Featured Actress in a MusicalAin't Misbehavin'
1982Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Individual Achievement - Special ClassAin't Misbehavin'

References[edit]

  1. ^ McCann, Bob (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. McFarland. p. 74. ISBN 0-786-43790-1. 
  2. ^ a b Crowther, Linnea (2012-01-23). "The Highs and Lows of Nell Carter". legacy.com. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Stage, Television Star Nell Carter Dies at 54 103 (7). Johnson Publishing Company. 2003-02-10. p. 49. ISSN 0021-5996. 
  4. ^ Nell Carter, Ain't Misbehavin' Star, Dead at 54 - Playbill
  5. ^ a b Pfefferman, Naomi (2009-01-31). "‘Pop-soul belter’ Nell Carter, 54, devoted convert to Judaism, dies". jweekly.com. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  6. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-3984109.html?refid=gg_x_02
  7. ^ "Actress Nell Carter Dies at 54". Fox News. January 23, 2003. 
  8. ^ "Carter's death natural". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 2003-05-07. p. 12B. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 

External links[edit]